Top 10: Massive bands who played Kent before they were big (The Beatles, Muse, Radiohead, U2 and more!)
PUBLISHED: 15:53 19 January 2015 | UPDATED: 16:55 19 January 2015
2013 Getty Images
David Bowie, the Rolling Stones and The Cure also on the list
Every music fan longs to catch a rising band in a small venue before they go on to bigger and better things. And where better than in this county of ours?
It’s easy to suggest Kent is something of a music backwater - struggling to escape the long shadow cast by nearby London.
But over the years you could have spotted everyone from The Beatles to the Stones, Hendrix to Bowie.
In a special report, we take a look at ten of the biggest bands to have played in the county before they had made it big.
Who? THE BEATLES
Share your memories
If you were at one of these shows - or want to share your memories of a great show you witnessed, get in touch and share your story.
Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
When? January 12, 1963
Where? Invicta Ballroom, Chatham
You may have heard of this popular beat combo. But the foursome who would become the biggest band in the world had humble beginnings.
This show was just a month after the band had completed their last German residency and were on the brink of enormous success.
Love Me Do, the band’s first single, had been released the previous October and reached number 17. Follow up Please Please Me had just been released and would climb to become the band’s first number one.
This show would be followed, later in the year as Beatlemania got rolling, with six back-to-back shows at Margate’s Winter Gardens in the July; an early indicator of their meteoric rise.
Who? DAVID BOWIE
When? June 16, 1962
Where? Bromley Technical High School
When David Bowie – or David Jones as he was then – was just five years old, his parents (who, legend has it, met at the cinema in Tunbridge Wells) moved to Bromley, which was then part of Kent. It was the start of a long association with the county which would also see him live in Maidstone.
As a consequence, Kent saw more than its fair share of early performances by the young singer, including a very early performance when, as part of the band The Konrads, he took to the stage during the school’s summer fete.
Over the following three years he would go on to perform at a host of shows. They include dates at Wye College, near Ashford; the Star Club in Maidstone; Deal’s Astor Theatre; and gigs in Sellindge, Littlestone, Minster and Sheerness.
He would finally crack the big time in 1969 when Space Oddity became a huge hit.
When? November 17, 1992
Where? University of Kent, Canterbury
They would go on to become one of the most influential bands of a generation, but just before the Britpop explosion catapulted guitar bands from the university circuit to the top of the charts, Radiohead were supporting rising bands and hoping to build up a following. Debut single Creep had alerted few other than the NME die-hards when it was released and after a tour supporting The Frank and Walters, a chirpy Irish group, they went on tour with Hull trio Kingmaker. At Canterbury they joined a juggler on the undercard. The following year they would release Pablo Honey, their debut album, while Creep would attract attention from the US.
They would continue to slowly rise with follow up album The Bends before 1996’s OK Computer would elevate them to stadium status. Kingmaker fizzled out after one top 10 hit.
When? January 15, 1999
Where? The Forum, Tunbridge Wells
The Forum must be sick to the back teeth of being referred to as its previous incarnation of a public toilet, but it has proved uncanny at flushing out some of the biggest bands.
Just a few days after the release of their second EP, Muscle Museum, Muse performed in Tunbridge Wells as they started to build up interest.
By November they had released their debut album, Showbiz – which would pave the way to them selling millions around the world.
Today hailed as one of the finest live bands on the planet, they continue to sell out massive stadiums and arenas.
Who? JIMI HENDRIX
When? December 31, 1966
Where? Hillside Social Club, Folkestone
You may well be standing on the brink of rock history, but there’s always time to see your mum.
Bassist Noel Redding had invited his bandmates from the Jimi Hendrix Experience down to Folkestone to see his mother on New Year’s Eve, 1966, after a gig at the Hillside Social Club in Dover Road.
It was an exciting time for the band. Their reputation had been growing and the release of debut single Hey Joe just days before hinted at big things.
Earlier in the year they had played a show at Chislehurst Caves – which then staged regular shows, including performances from a young David Bowie.
According to Redding, after the show they went to his mother’s chilly house. Cold, Hendrix asked her if he could stand next to her fireplace to warm himself. She agreed, but her Great Dane was in the way, so Hendrix let out with, “Aw, move over, Rover, and let Jimi take over”.
It would be the inspiration for Fire – opening track on the classic Are You Experienced.
Hendrix’s flame would burn brightly but shortly. He died of a drugs overdose in 1970 at the age of 27.
Who? PINK FLOYD
When? November 19, 1966
Where? Technical College, Canterbury
One thing you could never say about Pink Floyd is that they didn’t put the effort in. After forming in 1965 the band performed extensively as they became a key player in London’s underground music scene.
So it was perhaps little surprise that they swung by the county in November of 1966. At this time the band had been spotted and they were dropping the R&B covers they performed and replacing them with original songs penned by Syd Barrett.
Within months, they would have signed to EMI and the following year enjoyed success with debut The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, in the run up to which they would also perform at the likes of the Supreme Ballroom, Ramsgate, the Court Hotel in Bromley and the Ballroom at Margate’s Dreamland.
Dark Side of the Moon in 1973 remains one of the all-time greats.
When? November 11, 1980
Where? University of Kent, Canterbury
Try and get a ticket for one of the band’s recent O2 shows and you needed lightning reflexes and deep pockets.
Obtaining a ticket back in 1980 was a slightly less manic affair.
The Irish band, who had signed to Island in the March, were touring to promote debut album Boy, which was released the month before what may prove to be their one and only Kent concert.
October followed the year after and then War, all of which paved the way for the Unforgettable Fire in 1984 to deliver them massive breakthrough success and a famous performance, the year after, at Live Aid.
Singer Bono is no stranger to Kent – he’s been often spotted at the home of close friend Bob Geldof, who lives in Faversham.
Who? LED ZEPPELIN
When? December 13, 1968
Where? Bridge Place County Club, Bridge
Bridge, just on the outskirts of Canterbury, is not very rock ‘n’ roll. A picturesque village surrounded by fields and countryside, it did, however, managed to host one of the earliest ever UK shows by Led Zeppelin.
They were formed from the ashes of hit band The Yardbirds, and a flyer for the show still sees them billed as such – despite the band having imploded earlier in the year and a legal threat telling the new-look band to drop the name. The first ever shows as Led Zeppelin began in the October. Their debut, eponymous, LP would be released the following month. The rest, as they say, was history.
Tickets for the Bridge show? A mere 37 pence. How things change.
Who? ROLLING STONES
When? November 1, 1963
Where? Odeon Theatre, Rochester
It’s fair to say that Kent played host to a number of the very earliest impromptu performances by the Rolling Stones.
When Mick Jagger met Keith Richards at Dartford station, the two local schoolboys hit it off and would go on to make a band second only to the Beatles in their commercial and popular clout.
In 1963, on their first UK tour – just a year after they formed – they performed at the Odeon Theatre in Rochester.
The following year they would play two shows in a day at the Granada Theatre in Maidstone - the venue that would become the ABC cinema which closed in 1999 – as well as dates in Chatham, Tunbridge Wells and Ramsgate.
Who? THE CURE/JOY DIVISION
When? June 16, 1979
Where? University of Kent
Sometimes, you just get lucky. So if you were one of the few who picked up a ticket to see rising Goth star The Cure – fresh from the release of their debut album, Three Imaginary Boys, in May 1979 – you got a bonus.
Because supporting them were post-punk band Joy Division – performing the day after their first album with Factory Records, Unknown Pleasures, was released.
Less than a year later Ian Curtis, the band’s frontman, would commit suicide and New Order would rise from the ashes.
The Cure, meanwhile, would spawn a generation copying their penchant for big hair and smudged lipstick, as well as becoming one of the UK’s best-selling bands.
If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Bromley Times. Click the link in the orange box below for details.